Why Failing is Good for Us

Okay, so my husband always forwards me things that he thinks I’ll like that pertain to writing. Over the weekend, he sent me a link to an interview that Will Smith did. In the interview (which is pretty fascinating, actually), he talks about how the failure of his movie, After Earth, changed him.

In the interview, he talks about a hole that even at his most successful, always felt empty.  He said,

After Earth comes out, I get the box-office numbers on Monday and I was devastated for about twenty-four minutes, and then my phone rang and I found out my father had cancer. That put it in perspective—viciously. And I went right downstairs and got on the treadmill. And I was on the treadmill for about ninety minutes. And that Monday started the new phase of my life, a new concept: Only love is going to fill that hole. You can’t win enough, you can’t have enough money, you can’t succeed enough. There is not enough. The only thing that will ever satiate that existential thirst is love. And I just remember that day I made the shift from wanting to be a winner to wanting to have the most powerful, deep, and beautiful relationships I could possibly have.

Will Smith on the cover of March 2015 Esquire Magazine

Will Smith on the cover of March 2015 Esquire Magazine

I think sometimes I do this. I think my personal worth, or how valuable I am to my family (or others) comes from how successful I am in my writing. If my sales are high enough, then they’ll like me.

But over the past couple of years, I’ve learned the same thing as Will Smith. Having “friends” who only want to be my friend if I’m getting major deals isn’t going to fill the hole. I can’t win people that way. No amount of money will buy them. As he says, there is not enough.

I’ve shifted my attitudes, perceptions, and expectations about five thousand times on this publishing journey. I’m sure I’m not done yet. But really, I’ve realized that writing is not my life. It is something I do. Something I enjoy. But if I didn’t do it, I would still be me. I would still be valuable. I would still have my family, my personal worth, and be happy.

I don’t think I would’ve learned that without some of the failures I’ve experienced in publishing. So I am grateful for them, and hopefully I can continue to learn from them.

What have you learned on your publishing journey?

(The full interview is here. I recommend reading the whole thing, because it has a lot of other great stuff in it.)


Elana Johnson author

YA author Elana Johnson is author of many books including the Possession & Elemental Trilogies. 

Find Elana’s novels on Amazon itunes, B&N, Google Play, Kobo and Goodreads.

Visit Elana’s site elanajohnson.blogspot.com and follow Elana on Twitter @ElanaJ




New Series by Elana Johnson

New Series by Elana Johnson

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